My wife (Melinda) and I decided to hit the road full time with our four children almost a year ago. We had been homeschooling since our first was school age, but we knew that life on the road would make it a requirement. Because we travel all over the country, We were excited for our children to not only learn about the US but to experience it. Obviously, our homeschool looks different than most. The biggest difference is that we don’t want to be on the road full time and just sit in the RV doing school work. Our goal is to make our experiences a major part of how our children are learning. Plus, we have to be creative with how we do education with limited space in our motorhome. We aren’t able to stockpile curriculum or spread our children out all over the house to do their bookwork. Because of this, we use technology regularly to supplement their education.
While we travel, we are always on the lookout for something educational. Oh Ranger is an app that allows us to find experiences for our kids that will bring more value to their learning. We use it to search for State and National Parks nearby. The app can sort results based on activities we want to experience: sightseeing and hiking, rv camping, or swimming etc. We can even find out if there is a visitor center or museum at the park. These are all things that allow us to plan school outside of our small traveling home.
The ol’ standby YouTube has been extremely valuable to us as well. Just a few months ago we were standing over a display of astronaut food at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, NM. We pulled up YouTube on the phone and watched a video of astronaut Chris Hadfield eating some of the space food we were seeing examples of. It is great to talk to our children about a topic, go tour a museum that peaks their interest, and then watch some videos that will teach them some of the specifics of that idea. Another great resource is YouTube Kids because we know that as we search for a video nothing inappropriate will pop up while the kids wait for the video we want them to see.
When we are not out of the RV, we use the iPad along with some school books as the bulk of their day to day schooling. The main apps we are currently using are Splash Math, Dragon Egg for Grammar, Endless Alphabet for the younger ones, and The Explorer’s Library by Tiny Bop – Homes, Plants, Simple Machines, and the Human Body for sciences and social studies. We set them up to work on their school often while we drive to give them something to do during travel days. Since we aren’t able to sit and monitor what our kids are doing on their screens as easily during these times, Apple’s “Guided Access” feature is a must while using tech for the kids. With guided access, we are able to set a child up with the school app we want them to work on and then set it so they can’t close the app or open another one. That way we don’t hear “Lego Star Wars” while we are up in the cab seats and can’t do anything about it. We can also set the timer on Guided Access so they can pass it on to their sibling and not completely bogart the iPad time.
We founded our ministry, BecauseFamily, in 2013 to inspire parents to be the first influence in the lives of their children. We teach that, to accomplish that goal, parents have to be aware of what their children are doing on their devices. Along with Guided Access, some of the ways we accomplish that with our children is that we don’t have wifi readily available in the RV, and we have all screens locked with a passcode. Because of this our children can’t get online while they’re using the iPad or a phone to do school work, and they can’t get on a device without our knowledge. Our children aren’t old enough to be online by themselves yet, so we don’t want them in the back seat while we are driving down I-10 surfing the web and coming across something we wouldn’t want them to see. This is a peace of mind issue for us. We are absolutely sure that whatever is out there on the internet can’t get to our kids while we are driving because they can’t connect.
While using care and discretion, technology can go a long way in educating our children. We are able to teach them what they need to learn through experiences, traditional school work, and media that wasn’t available even when we, as parents, were in school. It’s a great time to home educate our kids. It’s especially a great time to “road educate” our kids.